The year was 2008, January 3rd, and when I finally went into UCLA psych hospital I was ready to have professionals diagnose me and help me to alleviate my psychotic symptoms and try to return to a ‘normal” life. I had suffered for a year and a half with bizarre experiences, some of which were tragic, expensive and downright confusing.
I had done research online prior to going to the psych ward and from what I could find realized I had Schizophrenia. I went to the psych ward equipped with my list of symptoms fully delusional at the same time as I was aware of what I suffered from. The lead psychiatrist initially told me that it was impossible for me to have schizophrenia because I was the wrong age and other factors so I became willing to allow them to analyze me and tell me what I had because I knew I had something that was causing my life to unravel.
After 3 days of interviews and observations of my bizarre behavior with the other patients in the ward, they confirmed my suspicions, I had Schizophrenia and although I had already begun Abilify an anti-psychotic drug upon entering the hospital, it was a relief that I finally had my diagnosis.
After my 7 day stay in the hospital, I was released to my husband and parents and was set up with a psychiatrist an hour away from my home on the Central Coast who fine-tuned my diagnosis as Schizoaffective Disorder. Little did I know that I would be seeing the same psychiatrist for the next 8 years and come to fully trust in his guidance as well as receive compassionate care. I wish everyone had a psychiatrist like mine because he has helped me so much, it is hard to put into words.
I don’t wish to focus on the negative experiences I had at UCLA but I must reveal that the lead doctor of the team of doctors who were analyzing me was not someone I wish to see for one day let alone 8 years. It was like night and day after my stay at UCLA to entrust my care to my now psychiatrist. The UCLA pdoc was judgmental and condescending and did not treat me or her other patients with respect.
I wish to share with my readers a few tips on how to get the most out of each and every psychiatrist appointment which I have done for the past 8 years. I must thank my mother who raised me to do certain things prior to my appointments. Thanks mom!
Tracking symptoms is vital and a simple journal or online document can be used to do so, especially in the beginning of treatment this is of the most utmost importance. I would notice certain behaviors and thoughts that I knew were not normal and jot them down. This information I would bring to my psychiatrist who would then adjust, stop or start new medication. This information would also include side effects of the medication along with observations of my immediate family whether or not the medication was noticeably working.
One facet of my disorder was that I would write prolifically about messages from God to various people and then I would have to deliver the messages to the recipient at a certain time. Things did not always work out so well so my dislike of writing after the delusions began to increase after beginning anti-psychotic medicine. Still to this day I do not enjoy writing like I once did but obviously still do write when I am inspired.
So I would write in bullet point style and bring this information to my psychiatrist. Here is an example of what it would look like:
- delusions were lessened after starting Abilify
- have increased restlessness on Abilify
- stopped hearing voices except for one day, but definitely lessening
- still depressed most days but know it will take a while for meds to kick in
- felt passively suicidal for two days but forced myself to get out of bed and to do something I enjoy
It is hard to remember from 8 years ago what exactly was going on with me and my disorder but that is a good example of what my list might look like. From the beginning I trusted my now psychiatrist of 8 years, so it was easy to share with him exactly what was going on. This is one of the reasons why I am doing so well because of this trust I have with him although I must share with you all that my psychiatrist now has told me that I have a rare form of this disorder in that I have much insight into my disorder, which helps me to do well. Most people with Schizophrenia do not possess this ability but I think they can still benefit from some of these suggestions.
The main one is to be totally honest with your provider. Of course it helps if you trust him or her and if you don’t it is worth trying a different one because if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your most private thoughts, they really can’t help you. It takes a lot of fine-tuning to find the right cocktail of medicine and if you have a relapse of sorts, it can be like starting over.
Today I do not bring a written list but I mentally jot down my observations, along with questions I have for my psychiatrist. I have an appointment Jan 8, and already have an idea of what I want to discuss with him. Basically I will share that I am doing good, for the most part am not delusional, still struggle with being motivated especially in the mornings and that the facial ticks my husband notices have lessened with the use of Cogentin so can it be increased to a higher dosage to help all the time?
I will also share with him my progress with pursuing brain activities like joining a book club and reading a 400 page non fiction book. He wants me to engage in things that challenge my mind now that I am not working anymore. Lastly I will ask him to include refills on my Latuda so I don’t have to wait for the pharmacy to contact him every time.
It gets easier with time but being mentally prepared is key to getting the correct dosage of meds and maximum results of good mental health.
So in a nutshell this is what has helped me to maximize my pdoc appoints.
- Track symptoms, jot them down if it helps, include side effects of the medications
- Be honest about everything (you can’t be helped if you hold back vital information)
- Listen to what your pdoc has to say and write down anything that is important to remember
- Keep all appointments even if you are doing well. He or she needs to know what is working too.
- Find a routine that works for you to remember to take your medications every single day! If you only remember to take your meds a few days out of the week, your report to your pdoc will be inaccurate.
- If any of your symptoms are life threatening (ie. suicidal or homicidal) contact your pdoc immediately, do not wait until your next appointment, you need to be seen right away!
Hope some of this is helpful! Thank you to the Schizophrenia researchers and developers for suggesting I write about this topic on my blog!